LOS ANGELES TIMES
Monday September 12, 2005
* Creative types who were forced to flee
But this last weekend, Nu was back tapping out jangly melodies on his steel drum at an impromptu art fair here in the heart of Cajun country, about two hours northwest of New Orleans. Admittedly, the crowds were a bit smaller and not quite as funky as those in the French Quarter. But Nu seemed relieved just to be making music again.
"Every time I get settled, some cosmic force moves me," Nu said, taking a cigarette break between sessions in front of Chris' Po-Boy, a local sandwich shop. "When they let people back in [to
Since Katrina slammed into this region of soggy landscapes and resolute people,
But few places are likely to absorb as many artists, or welcome them as handsomely, as this easygoing, culture-hungry city of roughly 110,000, give or take several thousand evacuees currently lodged in the Cajundome. Whether for reasons of family, history, geography, or just because many people in both places would rather pound rocks than be caught living elsewhere in the state,
"There are an awful lot of people here who have friends and family in
Settled by refugees of another massive upheaval -- the expulsion of French-speaking immigrants from British-ruled
Barry Ancelet, a folklorist and professor of Francophone Studies at the
It sure roared out Saturday night at the Cajun/zydeco benefit concert for the Red Cross held in a downtown park. Dubbed "Banding Together," the event corralled local musicians, displaced artists from
"We've got to do something to help these people," said Nate Williams, 18, the accordion-squeezing front man of Lil' Nathan & the Zydeco Big Timers Band, shaking off the sweat backstage after he and his band wrapped up their set here at the benefit, which was expected to raise several thousand dollars. A
For their part, some of the displaced artists who've relocated here temporarily say they feel right at home -- at least as "at home" as possible when your house or apartment may be under 6 feet of water, your instruments are missing or destroyed, and your former bandmates could be somewhere halfway across the country. Though
"We're doing pretty well," said Eddie Bo, a well-known jazz, blues and funk piano player, who's staying with a friend in Church Point, 20 miles northwest of
Like other Lafayette residents, Karen Hamilton, who's hosting Bo and his sister, Veronica Randolph, and used to run a New Orleans coffee shop and cafe with them called Check Your Bucket, emphasizes the positive things that have resulted from the uproar of the last two weeks. "God doesn't close a door without opening up a window," she said, "something good has to happen from this."
The decision of so many artists to relocate here is no coincidence.
Architect Greg Walls, who works in the David Courville Architect firm housed in a stylishly renovated building, said of
Maureen Brennan, executive director of the Cite des Arts, an arts and educational center housed in a rambling downtown building, said she is looking for ways to open up the facility as a performance venue for displaced jazz and blues musicians. Cite des Arts already hosts Cajun and zydeco dance classes, live theater performances and French classes, among many other activities. "I'm from
At least one other downtown hangout, the 307 Jazz & Blues Club, is assisting musicians to find work, pay their bills and repair or replace their equipment.
While musicians so far are getting the bulk of the media attention, other types of artists have been receiving, and offering, shelter from the storm. John Perret, a painter who lives in
Scott Jordan, editor of the Independent Weekly, an alternative newspaper, said he has about 17 people staying with him -- adults, a baby and other children, plus two cats. Many are writers or photographers, including the current editor of the
Some cultural workers here believe that out of this disaster-induced fusion of Cajun and Creole,
Standing backstage under a beautiful crescent moon at the end of Saturday's concert,
But maybe not for long.
Reed Johnson reported from Lafayette and Steven Barrie-Anthony from